Halloween candy, decorations and costumes have hit store shelves and online retailers. Every parent is probably wondering if he or she should spend the money on a costume this year. Besides, is trick-or-treating even a thing during a pandemic? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised against it, and medical experts agree it’s not the safest way to celebrate this year.
However, if you decide your family will trick-or-treat, there are some precautions you should take. Bethany Atkins, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician with Baptist Pediatrics and Wolfson Children’s Hospital. She answered all the burning questions you may have about Halloween this year, and offered some spooktacular low-risk alternatives to celebrate the day.
Is it safe for kids to trick-or-treat this year?
“I’m less worried about a child getting sick from trick-or-treating than I am about them being in play groups or daycare. If it’s your child and one other child who they play with already trick-or-treating together, going to 10 houses in their neighborhood and staying away from other kids, there’s probably less risk than going to school for six hours.
“That said, how safe it is really depends on your family’s situation. If someone in your household is high-risk, going out and being in large groups of people is not a great idea. If somebody really wants minimal risk, he or she should stay home.”
What precautions should trick-or-treating families take?
“First of all, Halloween costume masks are not protective masks, unless a child goes dressed as a surgeon! Children can wear a mask underneath a costume mask, or a child can always be something like Cinderella, but Cinderella is wearing a mask. It’s similar to Halloween when it’s cold out. You could be a cowboy, but a cowboy wearing a jacket. Also, if you or your child wake up not feeling well, this is not the year to go out.
“Also, remember the safety precautions you hear about every year. Parents need to look at their kids’ candy before the children eat it to make sure it wasn’t opened and then resealed. Make sure your kids have lights, like glowsticks, somewhere outside their costumes so they’re visible at night while crossing the street.”
Is trunk-or-treating safer than trick-or-treating?
“Trunk-or-treats, when people gather in a parking lot to hand out candy from their cars, are the exact opposite of what we want during the pandemic. Those events involve a group of people staying in each other’s vicinity for an extended period of time. The guidelines define exposure as any time you are within six feet of someone who is infected, for 15 minutes, unmasked. Since trunk-or-treats happen outdoors, it can lead to more people opting not to wear masks and increase chances of exposure.”
Is it safe to hand out candy at home?
“For those who have a high-risk person at home, putting that candy bucket out front and leaving the porch light on may be best. If you decide to hand out candy, even if you’re young and healthy, don’t bend over and look the trick-or-treaters in the face or ask about their costumes like you normally would. Just hand them the candy and say goodbye. Hopefully, the people handing candy out are wearing masks, and the kids are spending only a few seconds on the doorstep and then running away.”
Can I throw a Halloween party this year?
“It’s the same as any party right now — we don’t recommend large groups getting together, especially with people you don’t know. It’s recommended to keep gatherings to 10 or 15 people. The idea is to limit your exposure, whether it’s from children or adults. For every child, usually, there’s one adult. If your child is going to school in person, it may be best to just invite some of the kids he or she sees every day so none of them are exposed to entirely new people.”
What are some lower-risk activities families can try?
- Carve or paint pumpkins
- Have a Halloween movie night
- Do a scavenger hunt
- Decorate cookies
- Design your own haunted house
- Make Halloween crafts
- Stream music, like “The Monster Mash,” for a dance party
- Cook a creepy meal, like cutting hotdogs into worms or serving olives as eyeballs